For thousands of years people have turned to tea as a medicine, as a ritual and simply as a comforting drink. There are countless varieties and blends, and each can benefit the body in different ways. Fruit teas—such as mango, peach and hibiscus—are made from dried pieces of fruit rather than tea leaves, so they are naturally caffeine-free and make flavorful iced tea. For those looking to replace their morning coffee with tea, black tea is a good place to start: Although it has only half the caffeine of coffee, black tea generally is the most caffeinated tea type. Ceylon teas are ideal for those who want to go bold, while Earl Grey brings a note of citrus. With just 28 milligrams of caffeine per eight-ounce cup, green tea is an even mellower choice.
“Tea—especially green tea and matcha, its powdered form—contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that are thought to be anti-inflammatory, meaning they can help protect against many chronic illnesses, like heart disease and certain cancers,” says Dr. Yin Cao, Washington University associate professor and epidemiologist at Siteman Cancer Center. “Polyphenols can also help regulate blood sugar, so regular tea drinking over time may help reduce the risk of diabetes.” Tea is also an important source of flavonoids, another kind of antioxidant, which may lower blood pressure and cholesterol counts. White teas, derived from the young shoots of tea leaves, have the highest levels of antioxidants per cup.
Dr. Cao cautions that just because something is labeled a tea doesn’t automatically mean it’s good for you. “Be careful when choosing trendier teas—detox teas may contain laxatives and be harmful to your health, and drinks like bubble tea and green tea lattes can be packed with sugar,” she says. “And be mindful of the ingredients in herbal teas. These are considered herbal supplements, and some ingredients may interact with medications, so be sure to talk to your doctor to learn more before adding it to your diet.”
In Good Taste is brought to you in partnership with Siteman Cancer Center. Watch for more healthy, seasonal cooking ideas each month.